Tiger Tight End Says Bowl Victory Would Be Sweet

Cooper Wallace and the Tigers are putting the finishing touches on their preparations for the Nokia Sugar Bowl game vs. Virginia Tech.

New Orleans, La.--For starting tight end Cooper Wallace the chance to stay undefeated with a victory in Monday night's Nokia Sugar Bowl is about as big as a football game gets.

"It is huge," the Auburn junior says. "We have been through so much with our seniors and this is their last game. We are practically brothers. We are like a big family. I want to win the game for me and for Auburn, but mostly I want to win it for the seniors like Jason (Campbell). Those guys mean a lot to me. I am going to give it up 110 percent."

Monday's game vs. the 10-2 Virginia Tech Hokies will kick off at 7:13 p.m. The Tigers are solid favorites, but appear to be taking the opposition seriously.

"They are big and athletic," Wallace says. "I think Virginia Tech is going to be one of the better teams we have faced. They only lost two games and they had USC pretty much beat. I think they will be one of the top one or two teams we have faced. Their defense is big and athletic. They play hard 100 percent of the time. You see the same thing from them every week."

Commenting on his Tigers, Wallace says, "I think everybody has a good attitude. It has been a long week. We had two really tough practices at the beginning to get us back in shape and in the flow of things, then we settled down and got our legs back.

"Everybody is having a lot of fun, but at the same time everybody is really focused," Wallace adds. "It is the last game for the seniors and we all want to win for them."

Cooper Wallace

The Tigers have been working not to be rusty when they play their first game since defeating Tennessee on Dec. 4th in the SEC Championship Game. They had a spirited week of practice on campus before breaking for Christmas.

"At those practices we didn't have any school or anything else to do," Wallace notes. "We had some real physical practices. Because we haven't played a game in a month, it was important to hit."

Wallace was injured in preseason, but as he has returned to full speed he has become a bigger part of offensive coordinator Al Borges' game plans. Wallace goes into the Sugar Bowl game with 18 catches for 267 yards. He is sixth on the team in catches. Wide receiver Courtney Taylor leads in receptions with 38 and running back Ronnie Brown is second with 34.

"I imagine Coach Borges has a good game plan," Wallace says with a smile. "He puts in a handful of new plays for us every game. He is always studying the defenses to find some holes we can attack.

"I missed all of two-a-days," Wallace notes. "The hamstring (injury) may have hurt me a bit. I haven't done too much in the passing game so sometimes people might not be looking for me and I can slip out there unnoticed. Coach Borges has done a great job of calling our plays all season. If he needs me to block every play, I will be happy to do that. If he wants to throw passes to me, I will be ready for that, too.

"This year I believe was unique," Wallace adds." Ronnie had 34 catches and I understand why we want to get the ball into his hands as much possible. He probably caught some of the balls that would have normally been thrown to the tight end."

Overall, the Tigers have completed 200 passes this year with Campbell hitting 177-254 on the way to being named SEC Player of the Year.

"Jason is a good story," Wallace says. "It was like he was in a bottomless pit here a few years ago. People booing him and the way people talked about him on campus was disrespectful. Now, he has risen up and he is a star, a team leader. He has come a long way. I am so happy for him."

Wallace says that he believes Borges has done a good job with Campbell as his position coach and coordinator. "Coach Borges has come in and let Jason throw the ball and I think he is the best quarterback in the country," the tight end says.

Monday's game will be just the fifth football matchup between Auburn and Virginia Tech. The Tigers lead the series 2-1-1 with the last meeting coming in 1978 as Auburn won in Blacksburg, Va., by an 18-7 margin.


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